Disclaimer: Don't own DN. Song is I Still Remember by Bloc Party.
Note: This is set between the 11th of Nov 2009 and the 27th. Mello's base blows up 11th and he asks Matt for help on the 27th. Between those dates as far as I'm concerned he's mine to play with.
This story is set in Wales, where I live. This story is dedicated to my mother, even though she is freaked out by manga cos it goes backwards and doesn't read my fic. I live near this place. We went to the village, Port Einon, last weekend, and passed Merlin's Stone. The countryside around it was one of the most breathtaking things I think I've ever seen. Maybe it's not right to try to shoehorn Matt and Mello into this but I have written a lot of heavy stuff lately and I wanted to write something light and a bit airier and a bit looser.
I had fun playing with Mello in this but I understand if you don't like what I've done. I suppose I just wanted to see if I could write them on a 'day off'.
The Trenches Lay Empty
and i can feel our days are becoming nights
i can feel your heartbeat across the grass
we should have run
i would go with you anywhere
It is an incredible day.
There was a thunderstorm the night before. It had rained and rained and rained, and the ground had sucked in as much as it could from the torrents the sky had unleashed. Now there hangs in the air that after-storm feeling, this odd humming in the air, this sense of cleanness and newness and this feeling like the whole world has been refreshed. The smell of disturbed earth and wet grass hangs heavy all about, but there's this weird lightness about everything today.
Matt loves Wales. Well, no he doesn't - he hates it. There's nothing to do, the internet cuts out at random, and half the time you can't drive where you want to drive because there are fucking sheep meandering across the road and the farmer is either too thick or too drunk to notice that some people have places to go that aren't just the other side of the bloody field.
But apart from that, Matt loves Wales. Spread out below them is this vast expanse of countryside, all fields and hedgerows and they dip and curve into each other. Winding between them is the best road Matt has ever seen – it's long, and flat, and you can see over all the bends and go as fast as you like because you can see nothing is coming for miles. And here, just a little way off it, is the Stone.
"It's fucking cold," Mello complains, his hands in his pockets. Matt's never seen him dressed this way. At Wammy's, it was the soft faded-black sets, and they had toughened into leather and metal and zips by the time Matt had found him again. This is different. This is scuff-kneed jeans and a pale grey button-down shirt, this is a khaki parka and a stripy scarf. This is a normal boy.
This is a normal boy in jeans and a shirt with half his face burnt off. This is a nineteen year old bloke who's been in the fucking mafia, who has faced down death
This is absurd.
"Yeah, well," Matt says, his own hands firmly tucked into his armpits. "You're the one that didn't want to wear a hoodie."
"It felt bulky under the coat," Mello grumbles.
Matt gives him a wicked smile. "You thought it made you look fat, you prick."
"Shut up, Matt." Mello looks sidelong at him, and narrows his eyes. "Stop grinning like a tosser."
But he can't. He can't stop grinning because everything feels so weird today. He feels delirious and light headed and he wonders how high up they are because maybe it's the atmosphere, and maybe he needs to lie down.
Something is different about Mello.
The blond boy shrugs his shoulders. It's an exaggerated, purposeful motion that pushes the coat further up his neck. It shifts the scarf, as well, and Matt sees Mello wince. There's a second when he wonders why, and then he remembers that his friend is missing half his face these days, and that wool and freshly seared flesh don't make for happy companions.
The last time Matt saw him was May. He'd been looking for him. Well, Matt had always been looking for him, ever since that day he lost him four years ago. But on this particular day, he'd found him.
Or, at least, he had found the person Mello used to be, and he had found him locked in a casket of thorns and bullets and steel-toed black boots with laces thick enough to strangle you. It had been startling and it had been sickening and he had seen these glints in Mello's eyes, these little flecks of diamond cruelty drowning in electric blue. Everything about him had seemed wirier and sleeker and somehow feline, and Matt had suddenly felt like this great, clumsy, oversized Labrador or something that had come gallivanting in and slobbered all over the place.
Mello had given him this look followed by this hiss and Matt had turned on his heel and left. He'd left town. He'd left the state. He'd left the country. He'd gone home.
And he'd found that the Wammy House had no more been his home than the mafia base he'd just left had been. Really, he thinks – and it's something he's only slightly getting ready to admit, something deep and life-altering and that's going to change the way he looks at everything he does – home has only been where Mello was. And when Mello stopped being Mello...
He decides not to follow that thought any further. Instead, he stomps his feet a little to try to get some feeling back into them. The pervasive cold is clinging to him, and not letting go. He looks up and across at Mello. He is standing next to the Stone, looking at it with a mix of suspicion and reverence. So superstitious.
But there's an ease about him that wasn't there the last time Matt saw him. Sure, there's a lot more tenseness; there's his instinctive attempts to duck his scarred face out of sight, his deer-in-the-headlights look whenever someone's eyes drift over to him in the local pub. But something else in him has relaxed. Something that let him slip, at last, into manhood, letting go all at once of his slim physique and straight-cut hair, and turning him into this broader, more natural looking man that's standing in front of Matt now, freezing his ass off.
This is a Mello that Matt isn't used to - a Mello that, for the first time in his life, accepted Matt's help without bitching and cussing and insisting he could handle it himself. This is a Mello that let Matt drag him from the city of angels to the land of dragons and sheep and myth, let him insist on a break, didn't object when he peeled off Mello black second skins and replaced them with linens and denims.
The sky is surprisingly clear for mid-November over Carmarthen. Matt trudges up the rest of the path until he is next to Mello, and looks down at the stone.
"Y'know, you're supposed to touch it," he says. "If you want the luck."
"I know." Mello still hangs back a little.
"Then what's the problem?"
A pause. Then, "what if it doesn't work?"
Matt gives him a look. "It's a rock."
Mello turns to face him, without warning. And Matt really isn't used to those scars yet. His stomach flops over and he feels ill because if he hadn't been in town, if he hadn't run into Mello in May, if hadn't been able to resist going back to LA, then there's nothing to say Mello wouldn't have –
Those scars are a constant reminder of how close Matt came to losing him.
But now Mello's eyes are all cerulean fire and now that is the boy Matt remembers telling him to climb the gate and not be a wuss about things. "Matt!" he says, in a voice that's somewhere between appalled and disbelieving. "It is not just a rock! This is the stone where legend says Merlin met Arthur!"
Matt does something he hasn't done in a very long time – he makes air quotes. "Yeah. Key word there being 'legend', mate."
Mello scowls. "Merlin existed, you know."
"He was a mental hermit who shacked up in a cave."
"He was a wise and –"
"Oh, met him, did you?"
Matt grins as Mello's face clouds over. He has that stormy-anger look that Matt got so used to seeing when they were kids, when they used to hang around on street corners whenever they could slip out from under Roger's scrutiny. Matt hasn't seen that look in years. It's exactly the same.
Exactly the same. There's no evidence of the last four years in his face at all – except, Matt thinks grimly, the blooming great mess of raw flesh sprawling across it. It's almost comical – the Mello he'd seen in LA at the mafia base, and the drowsy, drugged up Mello from the airport, they didn't seem to connect to this man at all. He was calmer now. He was focused. He was the way he used to be, if he'd been allowed to just grow up. And there was this bloody great scar all across him reminding them that no matter how good this feels, no matter how peaceful their little bed and breakfast in Port Einon is, Mello will eventually have to go back to the war.
And Matt will inevitably go with him. Mello hasn't asked him yet, but he will. Once upon a time Matt wouldn't have been sure. But now...
Now, everything about Mello is different.
Matt decides that if Mello's gonna be such a superstitious wanker about this rock then he'll go first. He lays his hand smack flat on the stone just as Mello swallows his superstition and does the same.
Their hands land side by side on the flat of the rock.
They look at each other.
"Y'know," Matt says, "some people consider this a sort of pilgrimage."
"Is that why you made us traipse all the fucking way from the village?"
He grins. "Naw, I like the air. And this road. And this scenery. And the sky. And –"
"Yeah, yeah, I get it, you like it."
Mello stuffs his hands back into his pockets and hunches his shoulders again.
Matt leaves his fingers in place just a few moments more, feeling the grain of the stone underneath his fingers.
Listen, Matt thinks, Merlin or God or I don't know, whatever's out there. Keep him safe, alright? I know he's a nutter and I know he thinks he's a badass and I know he's probably the worst Catholic in the world but please. Keep him safe.
Mello's scathing tones cut across the gathering wind. "When you're done fondling it, Matt. We're just supposed to touch it, remember? Come on, if we head back now, we might be back in time for lunch tomorrow."
Matt laughs and moves his hand. "It's not that far."
"I was in a burning building last week."
"Your fault, not mine."
"Shut up, Matt. And stop grinning."
But he still can't.
For now, just for now, Matt can pretend this is going to be the rest of his life.
Maybe the pilgrimage will have meant something. And maybe it won't. He does not know how long either of them have left, but he knows this is probably the last time they'll do something silly and impulsive like visit a rock in the middle of nowhere because it's supposed to be lucky.
He looks at Mello, at the slope of his shoulders and the looseness of the muscles in his jaw. He's in jeans and a parka, for fuck's sake, and all about in the hair hangs the boldness of fresh starts the Welsh countryside after rain.
Matt has no fucking idea what's waiting for them when they leave this place, when they step out of histories and legends and go back to the war. But if he is going into it standing by Mello's side...
Who knows, maybe he can handle that.
"Hurry the fuck up, Matt, or I swear to God I'll throw you in the sea."
He grins, and follows on.